How to Obtain Court Records in Iowa
Within Iowa’s district courts are divisions run by associate judges with specific jurisdiction, including probate, juvenile, and misdemeanors such as traffic violations and ordinance violations. There are 99 clerks, one in each county, which handle district court records.
It’s important to know about the structure of the Iowa judiciary so that you can find necessary records such as divorce decrees, proof that your parole has ended or probation requirements were satisfied, adoption records, proof of inheritance, and more.
Above the state’s district courts are appellate courts which hear disputes about lower court decisions. These cases are assigned by the supreme court rather than taken directly from a queue of appeals. The supreme court is the top of the judiciary in Iowa, having last word on questions of constitutionality of lower court decisions, errors of law, and the legitimacy of state laws.
Requesting court records
Whether you are searching for a criminal trial, a civil lawsuit, a protection order, or property dispute, it’s important to know which court handled the case. A general search engine for all Iowa court cases is located on this page: https://www.iowacourts.state.ia.us/ESAWebApp/SelectFrame. Results provide minimal information, however, so if you need a transcript of a case or a document from a judge’s order, get the information that the search engine provides and contact the clerk of the court where the case was held in order to request the appropriate document. A directory of court clerks is here: https://www.iowacourts.gov/court-directory/.
Some records are kept confidential due to the age of the persons involved (such as juvenile court records), if medical information is included, or if the individuals in the case are victims of certain crimes.
Probate court records
When property is transferred upon the death of the owner, the probate court oversees the process to ensure that all necessary taxes are paid and that the proper heirs receive their due. Some probate divisions also handle issues like guardianship, termination of parental rights, and crimes against elders. To research probate records, start with a general search here https://www.iowacourts.state.ia.us/ESAWebApp/SelectFrame and request records by contacting the appropriate district court clerk from this list: https://www.iowacourts.gov/court-directory/.
Divorce decree request
Keeping a copy of your divorce decree is important to future financial applications, subsequent marriage licenses, housing qualification, and custody issues. To get a copy, contact the clerk of the court where the divorce was granted by using this directory: https://www.iowacourts.gov/court-directory/.
Federal court records
If you are a creditor in a bankruptcy case you must file documents with the court by a certain deadline in order to be counted among those who will be reimbursed by the applicant’s liquidation of assets. U.S. District Courts are responsible for bankruptcy cases as well as class action lawsuits, federal criminal cases, and lawsuits between states. Each state has one or more federal districts; cases can be searched on the following page: https://www.pacer.gov/. Official copies of court records must be requested through the clerk for the federal district court involved.